Exploring the Benefits and Risks of SMILE Eye Surgery

If you’re considering vision correction surgery, you’ve probably heard of LASIK. But have you heard of SMILE eye surgery? As a relatively new and minimally invasive procedure, some have said SMILE has revolutionized laser vision correction. In this blog post, we’ll explore the benefits, risks, and everything you need to know about SMILE eye surgery and how it compares to LASIK.

Understanding SMILE Eye Surgery

SMILE Eye Surgery

SMILE, or Small Incision Lenticule Extraction, is a minimally invasive procedure for laser vision correction, used to treat vision impairments like nearsightedness and astigmatism by reshaping the cornea. Developed as an alternative to minimally invasive surgery like LASIK, SMILE laser eye surgery has gained popularity worldwide, with over 6 million procedures being completed.

Why are patients picking the SMILE procedure? Let's dive in.

How SMILE Works

The magic behind SMILE lies in the use of a femtosecond laser, which creates a small opening in the cornea to remove a small lens-shaped piece of tissue, known as a lenticule. This refractive surgery reshapes the cornea, enabling it to focus light correctly on the retina and correct refractive errors like nearsightedness and astigmatism. Basically, one laser allows you to wake up and see.

The complete laser eye surgery procedure only takes a few minutes per eye, with the laser portion lasting approximately 30 seconds.

Conditions Treated by SMILE

In the US, SMILE is employed to address refractive errors, including myopia (nearsightedness), astigmatism, and presbyopia.

By reshaping the corneal surface, SMILE provides a long-term solution for individuals seeking to reduce their dependence on glasses or contact lenses.

Advantages of SMILE Eye Surgery

doctor SMILE Eye Surgery

Compared to LASIK, SMILE offers several benefits, potentially including fewer complications and faster recovery times.

Here are some key advantages of undergoing SMILE eye surgery for smile patients.

Flapless Procedure

One of the greatest advantages of SMILE over LASIK is that it does not involve creating a corneal flap. This eliminates potential flap-related complications, making it an attractive option for those engaging in contact sports or professions with a higher risk of eye trauma.

Moreover, the flapless nature of SMILE leads to less of an impact on corneal nerves and has a lower incidence of the short-term dry-eye symptoms compared to LASIK. For some patients, this results in a quicker recovery of corneal sensation and a shorter duration of dry-eye symptoms, contributing to greater patient satisfaction.

Suitability for Thin Corneas

SMILE could be particularly beneficial for patients with thin corneas. Due to the small opening and less anterior stromal tissue removal, SMILE is a viable option for vision correction in some individuals with thin corneas.

Additionally, SMILE is thought to leave the cornea with greater biomechanical strength, potentially making it a safer option for patients with thinner corneas or those at a higher risk of corneal ectasia.

Potential Risks and Complications

Potential Risks

Despite its advantages, SMILE eye surgery is not without risks. Potential complications include inflammation, dry eye, and over or under-correction.

Preparing for SMILE Eye Surgery

SMILE Eye Surgery prep

Before undergoing SMILE surgery, patients must undergo a thorough eye examination to confirm eligibility and receive instructions for surgery and post-operative care. In addition to the eye exam, the main two things that are needed are the prescription of the patient and the corneal tomography scans.

Eligibility Criteria

To be a candidate for SMILE surgery, an individual must have a stabilized prescription, normal corneal measurements, no history of laser vision correction, and overall healthy eyes.

Recovery and Post-Operative Care

Most of the recovery from SMILE eye surgery typically occurs within the first few days. Like any surgery there is a risk of infection, which is why patients are advised to avoid getting water and sweat in their eyes. However, with the SMILE procedure, many surgeons tell their patients that they have no restrictions after the first 24 hours. This means that patients can wear makeup, go swimming, or even workout the next day. Why do they say this? Well remember, with LASIK there is a flap, while with SMILE, there is only a small opening.


In conclusion, SMILE eye surgery presents a promising alternative to traditional LASIK surgery. With its minimally invasive nature, suitability for thin corneas, and reduced risk of complications, SMILE has become an increasingly popular choice for vision correction. As with any surgical procedure, it is essential to discuss your individual needs and concerns with a qualified doctor to determine the best course of action for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is SMILE eye surgery?

SMILE eye surgery is a laser eye procedure that only uses 1 laser, doesn't create a flap, and corrects refractive errors with a small opening by reshaping the cornea.

How long does SMILE eye last?

SMILE eye surgery is permanent for those with stable prescriptions and typically does not require further treatment.

What are the disadvantages of SMILE eye surgery?

If a patient has a big prescription or is above the age of 45, the healing time can be slower with SMILE eye surgery. However, these occur on a case-to-case basis. Talk to one of LASIK San Antonio's experts to discuss if SMILE is the best option for your specific needs.

What is the main difference between SMILE and LASIK surgery?

The main difference between SMILE and LASIK surgery is that SMILE uses a femtosecond laser to create a small opening in the cornea and remove a lens-shaped piece of tissue, while LASIK creates a corneal flap before using an excimer laser through photoablation to reshape the cornea.

How long does the SMILE surgery take?

The SMILE surgery typically takes only a few minutes per eye, with the laser portion lasting approximately 30 seconds.

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